THERE are various interventions that have been initiated to scale up nutrition levels in order to avoid stuntedness in both pregnant and breastfeeding women.
One such programme is the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) supported by six different partners and these are the UK Aid, Irish Aid, CARE, Sweden, Concern worldwide and Good Nutrition for a Better Zambia (NAZ)) with financial and technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and is being implemented in different parts of Zambia.
Luapula province is one of the beneficiaries of this programme because of its stuntedness rate in growth standing at 56% and at national level standing at 45%.
Out of the fourteen districts selected country wide, Samfya district is no exception from benefiting, where nine agricultural camps (six council wards and 11 health facilities found in these agricultural camps) were selected to run this programme.
The programme is being coordinated by the Food and Nutrition Commission of Zambia at national level. At district level, there are various departments involved drawn from Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Water and Sanitation, Education, Health, Community development and Social Welfare. These departments are responsible for coordinating and consolidating reports through Focal Point Officers and finally, submits to the Nutrition Commission of Zambia.
The survey was carried out by a team that comprised of staff from Ministry of Health, Agriculture and Livestock and Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
The assessment showed that most mothers do not breastfeed their children exclusively for the first six months, half of the children are given water with salt during their first month of life, others are given food in addition to breast-milk from about three months onwards and when a child reaches six months breast-milk is inadequate.
The objective of this programme is to reduce stuntedness caused by poor feeding programme for pregnant and breast feeding women and children of up to two years.
It has been discovered that the first 1,000 days in the life of a child are very critical in his growth thus, the call to bridge the gap by giving children improved complementary foods.
It is worth noting that, lactating mothers and pregnant women need good nutrition to enable the born and unborn child develop and grow healthy.
The programme has trained Focal Point Officers selected from different government departments in selected districts. While, the Focal Point Officers role has been to train Camp Extension Officers (CEO’s) in their respective districts, whose camps where selected.
For better extension delivery to be appreciated by the community, after undergoing training, CEO’s have been responsible for disseminating information on nutrition especially to pregnant and breastfeeding women in the community.
Some of the strategies devised include; firstly, to promote sustainable production, processing, preservation, storage, consumption and marketing of variety of food crops (especially legumes, vegetables, and fruits), fish, and livestock. Secondly, to increase production and use of fortified and bio-fortified foods to improve micronutrient nutrition
Mbabala camp which is an island on Lake Bangweulu in Samfya district is one of the selected camps.
Block Extension Officer Maggie Miyanda explained during a sensitization meeting that, the objective of the programme was to reduce stuntedness by improving the nutritional value of their diets.
‘’It was at this meeting were 60 beneficiaries were selected and were given seeds for beans, soya beans, pigeon pea, orange maize and fertilizers to plant during the rain season,’’ says Mrs Miyanda.
She further said a follow-up meeting was conducted on Nutritional Education Counseling, which addresses Diverse Diet adding that, the meeting was centred on educating women on the importance of preparing food that would meet the required nutritional value for each meal, which is basically a balanced diet.
‘’The balanced diet, needs to comprise of energy (from nshima either cassava or maize meal), proteins (from fish, meat, beans, eggs), vitamins (fruits and vegetables) and minerals (iron, zinc, calcium) from small fish eaten whole, cowpea leaves, amaranthus and cassava leaves among others,’’ said Mrs Miyanda.
She also revealed that the beneficiaries received vegetable seeds like carrots, Chinese cabbage, Beetroot and tomatoes to be grown after the rain season as a group and later, each one will grow her own garden.
Mrs Miyanda discloses that the community is expected to plant fruit trees while under livestock, they will receive chickens and goats.
She points out that the aim of the programme is to empower women to make use of foods that will be readily available within their area.
One of the beneficiaries, Violet Chisenga, thanked government for recognising them with such a programme, which had come at an appropriate time.
Mrs Chisenga said Mbabala being an island, had bad soils to grow maize and cassava, making it difficult for them to meet a meaningful meal.
The importance of this programme will be seen with the impact, it will have on the beneficiaries, as it is expected to improve the nutrition status of children less than two years of age, and reduce stuntedness to the objected target of 30%.
This implies the real meaning of the first 1,000 most critical days, has been given priority in terms of scaling up interventions.
Therefore, pregnant and breastfeeding women should embrace such programmes with the seriousness it deserves if the nutrition levels are to be addressed.-NAIS